The Ottumwa Courier

May 15, 2013

Van Buren schools welcomes new superintendent

Courier correspondent

---- — KEOSAUQUA — Dr. Pam Ewell has been named Van Buren Community School District’s superintendent.

Ewell is currently Mount Vernon superintendent, a position she has held since 2009. Ewell graduated from Iowa State University in 1982 and received her Ph.D. from Iowa State in 2004. She previously taught at Pella, Newton and Central College and served as principal at Twin Cedars, Saydel and Grinnell.

She said she is excited about the opportunity to be Van Buren Community Superintendent.

“I’ll be spending time looking at the pieces of what is excellent about the district and seeing what we can do to make it even better. Look at the strengths and also take care of the small things. Our most important asset is our youth.”

She said it’s been the smaller, not large districts that have been the innovators in education, mostly because they are nimble enough to react to the needs of their district.

One of the things she prided herself on was the effort to make Mount Vernon a school of choice.

“When parents are selecting a community to live in, they are looking at safe communities, the interest the communities have in education. I believe parents want a strong curriculum and have schools teaching their children at being successful at living in society. They want teachers they can communicate with and they want to be informed and want their children to enjoy school.”

The hardest part of her job at Mount Vernon was dealing with three student suicides within one year, she said.

“We tried to be very sensitive to the families who were dealing with this tragedy. It was an explosion in their face,” she said. “We also had to deal with it professionally.”

Ewell said the thing she wanted to accomplish was “building resiliency among the youth. Give them a healthy trust in adults and work to handle the stresses they have in their lives, understanding that childhood mental health issues are different from adults.

“There were a lot of different facets, and the pieces must be in place. Teen crises is a societal issue, but because teens spend much of their time in school, we will be involved.”

Ewell’s mother and stepfather live west of Van Buren County, and their daughter-in-law is from that area as well, near Lake Rathbun.

Her daughter-in-law has been showing her some of the sights of Van Buren County.

“This area is the best-kept secret of the state.”

“So far, I’ve found the people of this school district to be very passionate about Van Buren and take great care and interest. I’ve found the students are doing very well academically, and the administration and teachers are very committed. The people are very nice.”

Her husband, Brent, a former industrial arts teacher at Knoxville, is employed by Pella Corp. They have three children: Austin of Des Moines, Scott, who lives in Texas, and Colleen from eastern Iowa.

Ewell begins her job at Van Buren on July 1. She replaces Lisa Beames, who will be superintendent at Anamosa. Beames had been Van Buren’s superintendent since the 2010-11 school year.